Happy (Belated) Birthday Oregon!

Timberline Lodge at Mt. Hood, 1943.  Part of the OSU Archives new addition to the Flickr Commons.

Timberline Lodge at Mt. Hood, 1943. Part of the OSU Archives' new addition to the Flickr Commons.

This past Saturday, the state of Oregon officially celebrated its 150th birthday.  In the state capital of Salem, the birthday proper was marked by, among other things, a 400 pound cake, speeches delivered by eight of our most prominent dignitaries, and a rare public display of the original Oregon constitution…somewhere far away from all of that cake, one hopes.

Closer to home, we’re pleased to pass along word of an exciting project launched by our colleagues in the Oregon State University Archives — membership in the Flickr Commons.  OSU Archives is the twenty-first institution to join the Commons and the very first university.  Their inaugural contribution to the Commons project is a set of Civilian Conservation Corps photos extracted from the mammoth Gerald W. Williams Collection (pdf link).  The images and their descriptions are well worth a look.

The sesquicentennial celebration will be observed statewide throughout 2009, and will feature a wide swath of projects and activities, many of which are aggregated at the official Oregon150 website.

Minus the website, the Beaver state took much the same approach five decades ago as it reflected upon its first 100 years of statehood.  Locally, at what was then known as Oregon State College, a symposium on the next one-hundred years in forestry was perhaps the capstone event of the campus centenary fete, although an apparent trend in “centennial beards” likely kept both faculty and students in the proper frame of mind for twelve months of festivities.

Linus Pauling contributed to the anniversary occasion, if in a somewhat minor way.  On April 2, 1959 – seemingly rather late in the proceedings given that the 100th birthday had been marked a month and a half before – the co-chairmen of the Oregon Centennial Commission’s Committee on Higher Education wrote to Pauling:

Oregon is making every effort to create a memorable Centennial observance and some eight million persons are expected to visit the state during this once-in-a-hundred-years event.  The Committee on Higher Education felt that it could best demonstrate the high quality of Oregon colleges and universities by giving both citizens and visitors an opportunity to hear some of the alumni who have gained prominence in a variety of fields….We will ask each lecturer to make three speeches, one in Portland and two elsewhere in the state, sometime between June 1 and September 30.

Pauling was amenable to this idea:

I suggest that my topic be “Science in the Modern World.”  I shall be pleased to give a talk in Portland, which is my birthplace.  As to the two other places, I am willing to leave the decision to you.  I was married in Salem, and for this reason Salem seems to me to be a possibility for one of the speeches….My first schooling was obtained in Condon, but I think that Condon is too small a place for a speech.  Possibly southern Oregon would be worth while – Medford or Ashland.

And so it was that Pauling delivered three Oregon centennial lectures, one in Ashland on September 10, 1959, one in Portland on September 14, and one in Salem on September 15.

The topic of his talk, “Science in the Modern World,” was something of stump lecture that Pauling often delivered to popular audiences. (We’ve digitized three versions of the talk for various projects over the years: the 1951 version, a commencement address from 1958 and a Michigan State University talk from April 1959.)  The Oregon centennial edition was slightly different in that Pauling evidently included a few remarks on his ancestral roots.  The two pages of notes that he used for these presentations are included below.


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